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Three Questions: A Technology Roadmap for Education and Industry | Massachusetts Institute of Technology News


Innovation rarely happens by chance. There are years of research, investment, and planning behind every new invention or product, including the device you're using to read this article. Organizations that want to reach these milestones in the fastest and most efficient way possible use technology roadmaps.

Olivier de Weck, Apollo Astronautics Professor and Professor of Engineering Systems, uses his systems design and engineering expertise to help corporate leaders forge their own paths to progress. His research led to an MIT graduate course, two of his MIT professional education classes, and the textbook Technology Roadmapping and Development: A Quantitative Approach to Managing Technology. His textbook recently won the Most Promising New Textbook Award from the Society of Textbook and Academic Authors. This textbook serves as a guide not only for students but also for corporate leaders. Aerospace design and manufacturing company Airbus, Defense Technology Research Institute Draper, and package delivery giant UPS have all implemented the De Wex methodology. Here, de Weck explains the value of technology roadmaps.

Q: What is a technology roadmap? Why is it important?

A: A technology roadmap is a planning tool. Connect your current products, services, and missions to your future initiatives and identify the specific technologies needed to achieve them.

Suppose an organization wants to build a spacecraft to explore an asteroid in the farthest reaches of the solar system. A new type of electric thruster technology will be needed to reach the asteroid faster and more efficiently than is currently possible. A technology roadmap details several elements, including the level of performance required to achieve the goal and how progress will be measured. The guide also links various responsibilities within an organization, such as strategy, product development, research and development (R&D), and finance, so everyone knows which technology is being funded and how it benefits the company. You can understand what it brings.

Technology roadmaps have been used for over 50 years. For a long time, it was taught in business schools in a more general and qualitative manner, but the practice has evolved over the years. The technology roadmaps I teach and write use quantitative engineering analysis and combine it with strategic thinking. From 2017 to 2018, I used and refined this approach for Airbus, which has a $1 billion R&D budget. Together, we have developed over 40 technology roadmaps. This includes his plan to build the ZEROe commercial aircraft, which runs on hydrogen fuel, by 2035.

Q: Are technology roadmaps widely used in industry today? What gaps in knowledge/process does your approach address?

A: My colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and I recently conducted an industry-wide survey on technology roadmaps. Of the 200 companies that participated, 62% said they use technology roadmaps to make strategic investment decisions, and 32% updated them annually. However, only 11% of companies plan for technology 10 years from now. This is a bit worrying because technology doesn't move as fast as many people believe. Taking the Airbus ZEROe aircraft as an example, it is important to think not only within 3-5 years, but also 10 and even 20 years ahead.

My approach to technology roadmaps uses a method called Advanced Technology Roadmap Architecture (ATRA). We provide a step-by-step methodology for creating technology roadmaps that are more rigorous and long-term than traditional roadmaps. ATRA asks four important questions. “Where are we today? Where can we go? Where should we go? Where are we going?” We want people to think about these questions, not technology, as a guide to their retirement investments. Masu. You can also invest in high-risk mutual funds, low-risk bonds, or index funds that track the market. You will choose investments that reflect your future goals and risk tolerance. ATRA works similarly. This allows organizations to choose the right mix of R&D based on different scenarios and risk tolerance.

Q: Can you tell us about how you designed the course, including the book and 16.887/EM.427, to help students understand and apply the technology roadmap?

A: Working at Airbus allowed me to implement and battle test technology roadmapping and ATRA. When I returned to MIT in 2019, I had already drafted the chapters of this book, and MIT students gave me great feedback, so that I could make it at a level that would be useful and understandable for future MIT engineering and business students. I was able to refine and improve the book until now. Industry practitioners and executives.

An important feature of my textbooks and classes, although it may not be obvious, is their focus on history. When innovation is happening so rapidly, it's easy to claim unprecedented technology. Often this is not the case. For example, one student created a technology roadmap for virtual reality headsets. He noticed that people were doing virtual reality in the 1960s and his '70s. It was very rough, clunky, and low resolution. Still, there is 60 years of history that needs to be understood and recognized. My students and I have created a library of his nearly 100 roadmaps for a wide range of technologies, including superconducting fusion, lab-grown meat, and bioplastics. Each traces a history of innovation.




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